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Campaign costs can relate to candidates' success

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Money can be an indicator of election outcomes, but it is not a foolproof predictor. Money can be an indicator of election outcomes, but it is not a foolproof predictor.

It's that time of year: sun is shining, kids are laughing…and the political signs are popping up like weeds, multiplying every day. But for the candidates who put them there, it's the dollar signs multiplying - each sign costs about $3.

The commercials cost a whole lot more. Those, along with travel and paying consultants add up to be the priciest pre-requisites when vying for office.

"It takes a tremendous amount of money to get attention," said Political Science Professor Dr. Andree Reeves.

Dr. Reeves said that attention is key.

"It takes a whole lot of money to get up to the point where people recognize you," said Reeves. "Otherwise you are just a no name candidate. So, someone with $3,000 for example is not going to catch up to someone with $100,000 or 4 million dollars."

It's why Reeves said Governor Robert Bentley will win the primary hands down. He's raised $4 million. Meanwhile, Stacey George has a much more modest campaign fund of $14,000. Even democratic front runner Parker Griffith has yet to raise $100,000.

"Being an incumbent normally helps with the cash. Because, people want to hedge their bets and he is visible. He has the money to run the television ads," said Reeves.

But where does that money come from? In Governor Bentley's case, a healthy portion of it comes from individual donations. Hundreds of people have given everything from $100 to $100,000 to help Bentley get re-elected. Dr. Reeves says getting a little from lot is the right route.

"If a politician is able to raise money from a number of sources, that says to other people that politician is credible and might have a chance," said Reeves. "And therefore is worthy of getting more donations."

Together, Political Action Committees (PAC's) contributed about a 1.5 million to Bentley. Not to mention,  he's the only candidate for governor to get PAC money at all. The majority of Parker Griffith's money came from himself, according to his campaign records.

"No, the dollar amount does not always pick the winner," said Reeves. "Money can't buy you love. And a lot of it depends on where the money comes from. If it is your own money and you put a substantial amount of your own money in. That is nice you were able to do that, but that doesn't necessarily buy you votes."

Experts say the race for Lt. Governor is a bit tighter. But, not if money tells the whole story. Incumbent Kay Ivey has near $600,000 in the bank. Her republican opponent, Stan Cooke has about $200,000 less. Meanwhile, democrat James Fields has yet to raise even $100,000 in campaign cash.

"The person with no money is not going very far," said Reeves.

When it comes to local races, like say the Madison and Morgan County sheriff's election, it's not as cut and dry. The money portion of the race is much tighter.

Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning and contender Tim Clardy have nearly the same amount of cash. Same goes for Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin and her opponent Darrell Childers. Only about $2,000 separates their campaigns. Although Reeves said it's the challengers, Clardy and Childers who could use the advantage.

"Money is more important for challengers than it is for incumbents because they need to get their names known and the incumbents have that name recognition advantage," said Reeves.

And while the money trail is a big indicator of election outcomes, Dr. Reeves said it's not a fool proof predictor.

"If you spend the preponderance of your time spending money, then that means you are not doing something else," said Reeves.

For more information on county elections, go to the county's probate office website. For example, Morgan County election information is available online, however before browsing that particular site, you have to contact the office to set up a username and password.

All financial information for state elections can be found online at Alabama Votes. All figures used in this report were accurate as of May 19, 2014.

Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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